Auto-renewable subscriptions for iOS provide an easy way for users to subscribe on an ongoing basis to a feature of your app by paying a recurring fee over a set time period (e.g. monthly, yearly).
As an app developer, you can set multiple price tiers for the auto-renewable subscriptions you offer, and by doing so, you can offer subscriptions to multiple customer types. You are, however, limited to the price points set by Apple.
Though auto-renewable subscriptions are here, Apple’s iTunes Connect and the review process isn’t quite there yet in terms elegantly handling this type of in-app purchase. This can lead to some gray hairs for your delivery team as you’ll have to fill in the gaps and search for the information elsewhere.
To keep you from pulling your hair out, here are a few pointers to help you avoid some of the pitfalls that could prevent getting your app and its auto-renewable subscriptions approved quickly by Apple.
iTunes Connect allows and requires developers to enter metadata for each subscription tier when your app offers auto-renewable subscriptions. This information is entered in the In-App Purchases section under the Features tab in iTunes Connect.
If you only have one subscription tier, it’s simple enough. But if you are charging users at various price points for subscriptions (for example, one price for a monthly subscription and another for an annual subscription), make sure you enter all the required information for each tier.
If you have multiple localizations, you also need to enter details for each localization as well, for each subscription tier. To get your app approved, each localization must also be approved.
Further down the same page, you might also want to enter detailed information in the Review Notes for each subscription tier. I’ll talk more about this below (see the Detailed Triggering Information section below for more information).
It may be clear to you as a developer how your in-app subscription should be triggered, but unless the trigger is so clear that it blocks your users from even beginning to use your app, make sure to enter detailed information on how to trigger a subscription. This means you need to include step-by-step instructions to the reviewing Apple developer to help them navigate the app. Even one minor question by Apple’s reviewer could mean a delay of a day or two to your app’s launch.
Include your instructions both in the Review Notes section of EACH individual subscription tier as well as in the app’s general App Review Information section (under the App Store tab) for maximum visibility. Also add an image attachment, if possible, as it may make things a lot clearer for the Apple reviewer when looking at a reference screenshot while following typed instructions.
This all may feel a bit like overkill, but some reviewers have, in their haste, missed the instructions, so whatever you can do to make sure that doesn’t happen, will ensure that you will get to go live with your app that much faster.
Each in-app subscription has a price listed for it in the app’s App Store listing, but have you noticed that apps also include summary information about subscription pricing and rules in the App Store listing’s main Description field?
It isn’t clearly stated by Apple that pricing information needs to be included in the Description field, but it may be clearly called out in your rejection if you do not include it. (Speaking from experience here.)
While each subscription is identified in the Information section of an app’s listing in the App Store, Apple seems to want third-party developers to be very clear on the pricing by including it in the Description field, which resides further up on the page.
The Evernote app (app description pictured above) is a good example of how this information is exposed to users in the Description section. The prices of all available subscription tiers are displayed along with additional information on how the subscription behaves in terms of how the user is charged and how the subscription is renewed.
Make sure to get at least one in-app purchase (i.e. subscription tier) approved with the first approval candidate of your app. Though, ideally, you will want to get all the tiers approved that you want available to customers when the app goes live. This is because EACH subsequent in-app purchase approval request means you need to get the entire app approved as well. Each time Apple reviews an app, it may be done so by a different reviewer so you open yourself up to additional questions that can delay your app’s approval.
If Apple’s reviewing developer is unclear about the behavior of auto-renewable subscriptions in your app, they may place your app to Metadata Rejected state and reach out to you for more information.
What’s misleading is that when your app is in the Metadata Rejected state, the Submit button becomes active. Whatever you do, don’t press it! Leave your app in the current state, and just focus on the questions sent by Apple. As communicated to me by Apple, they only want you to respond to their questions, and once you’ve sent them your answers, Apple’s reviewing developer will change the state back to In Review and will proceed with the review. If you happen to press Submit and resubmit your app, it will be put back at the bottom of the review pile and will delay approval.
Apple continually reviews an endless stream of apps, so everything you can do to make it easier on the Apple reviewer to approve your app will allow you to go live that much faster. I hope this information sheds some light on potential issues, and if you want to learn more about auto-renewable subscriptions, click on this Apple Developer page.